Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
May 8 – August 10, 2014
1000 5th Ave, New York
+1 212-731-1498

The legendary twentieth-century Anglo-American couturier Charles James (1906–1978) is celebrated in this summer’s major exhibition at the Costume Institute, part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Charles James: Beyond Fashion explores James's design process, focusing on his use of sculptural, scientific, and mathematical approaches to construct revolutionary ball gowns and innovative tailoring that continue to influence designers today. Approximately seventy-five of James's most notable designs are presented.

The first-floor special exhibition galleries spotlight the glamour and resplendent architecture of James's ball gowns from the 1940s through 1950s. James's biography comes to life via archival pieces including sketches, pattern pieces, swatches, ephemera, and partially completed works from his last studio in New York City's Chelsea Hotel. The evolution and metamorphosis by James of specific designs over decades is also shown. Video animations illustrate how he created anatomically considered dresses that sculpted and reconfigured the female form.

After designing in his native London, and then Paris, James arrived in New York City in 1940. Though he had no formal training, he is now regarded as one of the greatest designers in America to have worked in the tradition of the Haute Couture. His fascination with complex cut and seaming led to the creation of key design elements that he updated throughout his career: wrap-over trousers, figure-eight skirts, body-hugging sheaths, ribbon capes and dresses, spiral-cut garments, and poufs. These, along with his iconic ball gowns from the late 1940s and early 1950s—the "Four-Leaf Clover," "Butterfly," "Tree," "Swan," and "Diamond"—are showcased in the exhibition.


Assouline Book
Discover more about Charles James inside Assouline’s signature fashion tome dedicated to “the inventor of American haute couture”.